Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Spring Game Redux: Getting Offensive Part 1

I've been looking around the Internet and soaking in what everyone has been saying. Not sure I have too much that is original to say but that has never stopped me before from sending my voice into a tube that will then enter a series of tubes.

So what did we learn from the Spring Game? Nothing, but are we going to act like it told us a whole bunch? You betcha...(complete with Palin eye wink)

Boyd looks to be in a little better shape. He said in a recent interview that he gained 8 pounds during the season.  Wow. This always makes me a bit suspect when we hear about his dedication and leadership.  I think Boyd genuinely wants to lead but also is susceptible to little demons. A few too many cheeseburgers or letting a bad play get to him.  I do think he can lead and has shown his ability. His footwork is slowly improving. But those of us who have watched him play every game, every play know that his is prone to these ridiculous throws about once a game, he still locks onto targets and will force the ball rather than taking the check down, first down throw.

His second interception in the game was that exact what in the world--throw it to the FSU Werner DLineman TD type throw. That can't happen with a championship caliber QB. He threw another underhand almost picked off pass at the goal-line as well rather than throwing the ball away. So positives but with a vanilla D, as Dr. B at Shakin said, he should have ripped it to shreds while easily spreading the ball around. Tajh needs to manage the game but depending on the O-Line he may need to make quicker, better decisions with the football. They aren't going to do him any favors so he becomes all the more important.  When to take the sack, when to throw it away, when to maintain your poise--all these things will be magnified by a sub par O-line. Harper wasn't up to that challenge in 08'.

Stoudt looked better than Spring practice and Roberts looked a little better that Will Procter. Neither have the release or arm strength to be elite QB's but Stoudt is a decent back-up. Tony is done for the season but with the medical redshirt it might be good for him. He needs to re-evaluate whether he wants to be a QB or try to help the team in other ways.

Ellington is out with minor surgery which should be nothing. We need him to be explosive to repeat this year. The fact that we missed on some elite RB's in the last class was tempered with the return of Andre. The pistol is encouraging and I love the coaching staff looking for logical solutions to problems. Morris knows the O-Line will be problematic so how do we scheme to help that problem area out? Well get the ball out quickly, increase tempo and throw in the pistol. Beautiful.  Also encouraging that the backs are catching the ball better--we were really horrid on checkdowns to the flats last year (some of that is on Boyd too). This is the area Ellington must improve on to boost his draft stock, that and staying healthy.

Howard has a chance to be a solid contributor and is a decent two as a north/south runner but you would like to see him improve his strength to run some people over more. Bellamy is amazing but can't put the ball on the ground. Still crossing my fingers that he puts it all together. He has been more impressive running between the tackles but has to maintain that focus in the open field, so the ball stays high and tight.  Must improve the blocking but also understanding of assignments and where to line up, knowledge of the plays and scheme.  Hot rod is running out of time (ha). Brooks is an exciting prospect that Morris seems to really like, he showed some flashes during the game.

Ford is going to be fine as a Dwayne Allen replacement. Still needs some work in the trenches and blocking.  Ford will be a weapon for us and that was another great personnel decision.  Cooper has underachieved. Morris said he has been sick and banged up but hopefully he can put it together because he offers a steady skill set in terms of blocking and catching as a back-up. Seckinger moving to TE is good, I had written him off with the transition but he looked pretty fluid as a TE. He will need to develop now into a TE but is still young and can follow after Ford nicely.  MacLain came in highly recruited and the staff needs to figure out what to do with him. Can he grow into an OT or will he be a major contributor at TE. I think you need to make the decision this year, this summer and stick to it. Smith is a special teamer but had a nice catch and is an above average blocker. He might get some PT this year is a back-up role. He is a special teams contributor as well.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Where the Problems might lie: DE Edition

Every year I like to think about problem areas we are not focusing on and try to predict where potential breakdowns might exist on the team. Last year I think the area we were weakest at but no one was talking about was the Safety position, which culminated with our spanking by WV.

So where could it be this year? We know that the offensive line will be a question mark especially depth along the offensive line. So that isn't very interesting. Timothy Gifford seems to be stepping up potentially in the RT spot and as I predicted Thomas has moved to LT because you can't start two freshman tackles and not be really worried. Right now we need Kalon Davis and a tackle to step up but we really lack any proven quality depth. Remember last year we had two back-ups in Cloy and Smith who had played a lot of quality snaps in their careers. Can Norton step up? He has been less than stellar as a back-up center so far. Will guys get into shape?

What are we overlooking? I was going to write this last week but Coach Venables beat me to the punch (which is really encouraging because I think he has made some great personnel and coaching decisions already), by saying that the DE's need to improve. Last year we were not playing at the same level as in the past with the departure of Bowers to the NFL. Branch did a great job and was at times dominant but was not as strong against the run. Goodman was not very good. He didn't set the edge with any authority and had virtually no pass rush. A Batson victim, he has gotten to big and lost some of his speed and agility while at Clemson. As a Sophomore he was one of the first flying down the field making tackles on special teams. Now as the only returning starter he has a lot to prove.

Corey Crawford is going to start on his other side. In a back-up role Crawford did fine last year, especially as a true freshman but he needs to take the proverbial next step and has yet to show he is an every down kind of player. Our back-ups haven't really played yet. Very little competition to push the top guys. Vic Beasley is an athletic specimen who was on the offensive side of the ball his red-shirt year and was on the DE depth chart last year. He still has to learn to play the position. The reports say he is fine athletically and is developing technique but needs to get the defensive mentality. This is understandable since he never grew up playing the position. Byers and Dodd are are a red-shirt frosh and a true freshman. They need time to develop into back-ups.

What is the theme here? Lack of depth and susceptibility to injury. DE recruiting (and DLine) needs to be a serious priority in this cycle. It should have been more of a priority last cycle. I think we are looking good with TE's and WR's...We are bringing in Shaq Lawson and Martin Aiken this year who will be fine players but will need a year or two. We will probably end up burning one of their redshirts to provide depth. We need a top flight 4* recruit badly. Its the first time in probably 8 years we will not have a borderline 4/5 star DE on campus. Sapp, Bowers, and Goodman were all in this area with Merling, Branch, Gaines Adams, and others being low rated recruits who got drafted in the 1st/2nd rounds.

Other potential pitfall areas we aren't thinking about:
  • Punter: Benton has positive reviews so far with Pinion a quality recruit to back-up
  • Safety: Can Hall recover from the injury to return to at least his Soph year productivity, will Meeks learn how to take better angles. Do we have any depth after wasting Robert Smith's redshirt?
  • CB: How much does the departure of Sensabaugh hurt our secondary. He was an every down player. Breeland was decent last year but Robinson took a step back. Blanks training at the Nickel is a big positive because Brewer statistically last year was picked on and below average. The Football Scientist uses Yards Per Attempt as a metric and according to YPA Brewer gave up 10.3 YPA which is horrid. Jenkins improved last year but it will be interesting to see how the types of players Venables uses in his scheme. More SAM backer with Lateek or a smaller Nickel back like Jenkins.
 A quick note on Venables: I love the move of Hawkins to WILL! Seems like Steele was worried about playing favorites or guys transferring because this should have been done long ago. Hawkins was never suited to play MLB and hopefully will benefit from the change. Anthony will be the most important player on defense this year. As he goes I think our defense goes. Not having a stellar line will put more pressure on our LB play. I love hearing Lateek Townsend's name being put in the mix. He is the kind of athlete that needs to see the field and it is positive to hear Justin Parker's career could still have some legs.

I like Venables decision to stick Blanks in the Nickel spot. If he can lock that spot down and perform well he gives us the flexibility to adjust to any offensive scheme. It is encouraging to hear the interior DLine coming along but I am always worried that it is more about our poor OLine play than DLine talent. Gotta love spring ball!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Perhaps Why USuCk is Beating Us

They don't have better recruits, they don't have a better scheme and their coaches aren't better than ours but they have been a lot tougher than us for the past three years...hmm...I just can't hep but wonder why?? Now obviously this is a lot of nice editing but I can't help but look at the competition that is going on here and see more intensity.  They are doing functional strength drills that push players to really get into it.  When you see our team lazily pushing sleds do you get the same intensity? The lifting is also night and day--everyone practicing good form.  Are we keeping track of 40 and shuttle times--charting in tangible benchmarks how players can improve? I also like how they use longer lines of players for their drills so less players are standing around taking breaks. We need to get some additional help, fresh new ideas, or make a change...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Dook goes down

Some things in life must be cherished. The looks on the Plumlee brother's faces were priceless. Even with a mediocre basketball season I can take solace in Duke being added to the elite list of only six schools to be ousted as a two seed in the NCAA tourney. I still remember Richmond beating Syracuse and a team called Coppin State beating South Carolina...

Add that to your illustrious career resume Coach K.  How about that phantom bump 3pt. foul call for Austin Rivers. Lehigh I will now forever remember how to pronounce your name.  If you win another game I will find out where your school is located.  Thanks for the memories.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Spring Musings: Offensive Line

So the o-line has been practicing like this a lot in the first three days.
LT Battle (it rhymes)
LG Thomas
C Dalt-man (yeah thats terrible I know)
RG Shatley
RT Gore

A freshman LT just sounds too scary for me. I think that the coaches want to have Battle and Gore as the two tackles but will end up putting Thomas there. I think they are right that he is a great guard as opposed to an above average tackle at this point.  He certainly has matured a ton (he was the major question mark all last summer and at the beginning of last season), he is taking a leadership role now and will be a key player with Freeman not only on the O-line but as leaders of the team.  If Gore or Battle can emerge as decent players then we have a chance to be special on offense but if they struggle then we will shuffle and rely on Tajh and quick decision making.

If Shatley turns into an 80 play right guard for the next two seasons and plays toughs and hard then I will give a lot of credit to the coaching staff, especially Dabo.  Could turn out to be the best player personnel move he has made as head coach. I was initially skeptical and still not sure exactly what this says about our last 2-3 classes of o-lineman.  Speaking of moves, I am hoping that Eric Maclain has his positioned solidified this Spring. If you want him as a Tackle then move him now or commit to keeping him at TE.

I am very disappointed with our o-lineman as a whole though.  I think we are weak and have no depth but the starting 5 have a chance to be good.  But what is new, this is Clemson every year under Batson.  This is where you want to have no injuries this year. If anyone goes down you are going to have to play someone who has played close to zero college snaps. Very scary and could potentially derail the season.

Here are some key reserves that we need to perform to have any depth. Kalon Davis is the first. Had a back injury in redshirt year (oh yeah and remember that JK Jay should be a starting tackle if not for a career ending injury doing what--lifting weights under the care of Batson) and has battled getting weight down (a theme for our o-line) but has gotten positive reviews so far in camp at LG. If Thomas is at LT then Kalon will start so big year for him.

Ryan Norton will be the back-up Center but I would be tempted to move him to guard with Guillermo looking like he will be a good center prospect as well.  Hopefully Norton can spell Dalton and cross-train this year so he can be a back-up center and guard as well.  I think Jones, Destefano, and Guillermo have looked better than expected in camp but all should redshirt.  

Other Guys

Here are some Other Guys who need to step it up or contemplate freeing up some space on the roster.  Now I am not advocating running anybody off but if you can't break the two deep with our roster than you aren't working hard enough or don't have D-1 level talent.

Matt Sanders has been a disappointment and won't break the two-deep. This is a make it or break year for Beasley who was a high 3/4* recruit out of high school but has yet to get himself into playing shape.

Gifford Timothy should be slotted for the RT spot but I don't see it. I think he is a shaky back-up right now and Webster is barely visible. I am beginning to think that we missed on these two, certainly on Webster. Timothy has a chance to really impress this spring but is getting pushed around in drills.

I like Spencer Region a lot. He has good feet but came to Clemson at like 380 or something and the weight hasn't come down enough. He needs to get down to the 340 range to even be an option.  We need his toughness so I am hoping the training table will help him shed that baby fat. Shaq Anthony is another who seems like he will be a good player but needs a bit more time.  I am hoping he can contribute on the two-deep at some point this year. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Road Schedule Analysis

Overall I think we got so royally hosed last year that this schedule is eminently more reasonable.  One thing to remember from last season is that we were a horrible road team (other than playing VTech).  The home crowd really made a difference I think against Auburn, FSU and Wake where if we aren't at home I don't think we come back. We were not great when playing Maryland, USC, NC State, and WV away from home.

So I am most interested in how we play on the road this year. How do we play in a dome against Auburn (is that effectively an away game?)? FSU seems tough but we did play well the last time at Doak losing on the most ridiculous FG I have ever personally seen, but the D-line was stout then too. BC shouldn't be a problem but new coordinators (and losing in Chestnut before when we shouldn't have) always leaves me more cautiously optimistic than confident.  We are at Wake with a 4 day turnaround on a Thurs. which should feel like a home game (and I hope we really make a push to fill that stadium with orange this year especially) but Wake has always been pesky.  Not sure what to make of their team this year either. 

*On an important side note, the admin has now agreed to Thursday night games?? I hope an intrepid reporter finds out if this is Dabo's doing or not. If that is true he is really becoming able to lobby the admin which I think is an overall good thing.  I've never been a huge fan of Thurs night games but the excuse of it putting too much strain on students always sounded a little contrived.  I do like the idea of the admin being pushed further to support athletics however.

So Wake will be tough but they have the same schedule as us with a 4 day turnaround, which is very fair.  This is one I will expect to win but will be on pins and needles.  I still remember needing the heroics of the late, great Gaines Adams to pull out a win on a blocked kick return, so I am not comfortable up there.  Then we get Duke on the road which should be a win and is a great team to have to play on the road. However it took an insane comeback to beat an equally pathetic, if not more pathetic Maryland team last year.  Then we end the season with three at home.

Our OOC schedule is nice this year with GT and VT at home and Duke on the road. Next year our OOC schedule should get even easier with VT coming off and adding Syracuse for an SEC team (but I am still hoping we get 8 conference games and lose GT as a natural rival just bc I hate the team needing to prep for the triple option every year and PJ is so smug when he wins).  If we could do last years schedule then we can certainly do this years.  I like that NC State is later in the year, so as to remind us of how we got complacent towards the end of last year. If we get through Auburn and FSU and can take care of home games and lesser opponents on the road then the season could be pretty special...

If only we had an O-line...and hopefully a D-line, we just might be able to run the table...

(and so it begins...)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

South Carolina Caught in Sexual Harrasment Case

Why is this not bigger news?? This should bring down the entire Athletic Department at USC. There is no place for this kind of sexual harassment and then covering it up. USC fans should demand an investigation. Add this to the current NCAA allegations and this better be lack of institutional control. The NCAA should come down hard on these folks. The lawsuit alleges that it goes up all the way to the athletic director and school president!!

A blog about all Clemson Tiger University sports--football, basketball, baseball, along with the occasional South Carolina coot bashing.